Your somewhat daily Summa…

Read the following from Aquinas’ Summa theologiae and then challenge yourself to

i) rebut each objection and

ii) articulate your own explanation of the truth,

before reading how St. Thomas does so.

III, q. I, a. 1 – “Is it fitting for God to become incarnate?”

Objection 1. It would seem that it was not fitting for God to become incarnate. Since God from all eternity is the very essence of goodness, it was best for Him to be as He had been from all eternity. But from all eternity He had been without flesh. Therefore it was most fitting for Him not to be united to flesh. Therefore it was not fitting for God to become incarnate.

Objection 2. Further, it is not fitting to unite things that are infinitely apart, even as it would not be a fitting union if one were “to paint a figure in which the neck of a horse was joined to the head of a man” [Horace, Ars. Poet., line 1]. But God and flesh are infinitely apart; since God is most simple, and flesh is most composite–especially human flesh. Therefore it was not fitting that God should be united to human flesh.

Objection 3. Further, a body is as distant from the highest spirit as evil is from the highest good. But it was wholly unfitting that God, Who is the highest good, should assume evil. Therefore it was not fitting that the highest uncreated spirit should assume a body.

Objection 4. Further, it is not becoming that He Who surpassed the greatest things should be contained in the least, and He upon Whom rests the care of great things should leave them for lesser things. But God–Who takes care of the whole world–the whole universe of things cannot contain. Therefore it would seem unfitting that “He should be hid under the frail body of a babe in swathing bands, in comparison with Whom the whole universe is accounted as little; and that this Prince should quit His throne for so long, and transfer the government of the whole world to so frail a body,” as Volusianus writes to Augustine (Ep. cxxxv).

If you already know what Aquinas says, don’t spoil the fun for others.

Let there be comments….

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About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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One Response to Your somewhat daily Summa…

  1. Chad Senesac says:

    In general, these objections assume an inherent separation between the physical and the metaphysical. This assumption is unbiblical and pagan. The Incarnation was a real historical event and is an ever-present reality.

    Rebuttal 1. It is true that God is from eternity the “essence of goodness” but God does not have to be “as He had been from all eternity” in order to maintain His essence (i.e. His character as in His holiness, His omniscience, and so on). He can be incarnate and maintain his character.
    First, an argument by simple analogy: a human being changes form throughout his or her lifetime, yet the human being’s DNA remains unchanged. Likewise, when God becomes incarnate in man, assuming a different form, He retains his “essence of goodness” which is like part of His DNA.
    Second, as an eternal being, God can take rightly whatever form He so intends. The objection says “from all eternity He had been without flesh” yet this statement does not accurately represent the paradox of eternity, especially in light of the Incarnation. From all eternity God intended to “take on flesh.” Being also omnipotent and omniscient, God’s intentions are as sure as done. Due to their surety, the intention is itself an eternal reality, not a temporal compromise.
    In the end, constancy of form is inconsequential for a God who always intended on changing form anyways.

    Rebuttal 2. The second objection says “it is not fitting” for the objects “infinitely apart” to be joined. But this objection exaggerates the differences between God and man. There are differences to be sure, but to characterize nothing but opposition between God’s qualities and man’s qualities is incorrect.
    An argument from analogy again: I am not my photograph. I am a living, communicative human being whereas a photograph, the representation of me, is mute, two-dimensional, not-living. But to say that I and my photograph are “infinitely apart” would also be false. A photograph of myself and me myself have some connection. In mathematical terms, the photograph may be said to be not equal to me but congruent to me. Similarly, man is not God but he is a representation of God, or as Genesis says made in the image of God. God is not a man, but neither is He infinitely apart from His image-bearer.

    Rebuttal 3. The third objection finally claims it “unfitting that God, who is the highest good, should assume evil.” This objection presumes man (and maybe all physical nature) to be evil. The only rebuttal here is the most biblical one. Genesis states that God made man and woman in “His image” and that all of the natural world was “good.” Evil is not the primary or unalterable essence of the physical world or man. An omnipotent God is not overcome by the evil of world, all of which is the doing of lesser spiritual beings. If anything, God’s assumption of human form would restore the “highest good” to the original form. New Testament writers acknowledge this truth: the Second Adam heroically retook physical nature from the hijackers of Hell.

    Rebuttal 4. Paraphrased, the final objection is as follows: God, great and glorious, takes care of the whole world; therefore, God cannot be contained within any part of the world, less and inglorious. This objection incorrectly applies the man-conceived rules of physical scale and stature to a metaphysical being. God cannot be diminished in the assumption of any physical or social form (a small babe of non-privileged origin). To say that size and stature (the “lesser”) could diminish God’s glorious nature is itself a belief that diminishes God’s glorious nature.

Be kind, be (relatively) brief, be clear...

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